Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS))

Mental health conditions affect one in four people over a lifetime and are responsible for more than 10% of the global burden of disease. They are the leading cause of disability in terms of years lived with disability, equivalent to nearly a quarter of disability in children and youth worldwide.

The risk for mental health conditions and psychosocial problems among children and adolescents is exacerbated when they are exposed to poverty, violence, disease or humanitarian crises. In recent years, the changing humanitarian contexts have created a more dangerous environment for children and adolescents’ well-being and development. Prolonged conflict, mass displacement, violence, exploitation, terrorism, disease outbreaks, intensifying natural disasters and climate change all present greater instability and more difficult conditions for children’s mental health and psychosocial well-being, and anxiety, depression and other stress-related problems threaten children’s ability to grow up healthy and happy. Humanitarian crisis also put parents and caregivers under mental and psychosocial duress, which can prevent them from providing the protection, stability and nurturing care their children need during and after an emergency.

 

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) is an institutional priority for the UN and for UNICEF, and is critical to the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The UNICEF Strategic Plan 2018-2021 identifies MHPSS as a priority area, building upon existing programming through child protection, education and health, shaped by actions and standards set out in the Child Protection Minimum Standards (CPMS), Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action (CCCs) and the IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergencies.

 

Building upon decades of experience in programming for children and adolescents, the UNICEF Guidelines for Community based MHPSS in Humanitarian Settings: Three-tiered support for children and families have been developed to support child care workers and partners working with children, to design and implement programmes that protect and promote children’s wellbeing and full participation within the family and community systems that surround and support them. These guidelines provide a framework, based on the IASC MHPSS Guidelines, that is strongly grounded in an integrated multi-sectoral approach to the promotion of mental health and well-being and prevention of mental health conditions. UNICEF recognizes the connections between (a) programs that may target the community-level and focus on building resilience in children, adolescents, families and the wider community, developing community-support and activating coping mechanisms; and (b) programs that address a target group within a population, displaying significant distress, for whom community-wide activities are not adequate and for whom more focused and specialized support is needed.

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